Fire consumes six acres
Grass fire also
blackens hills in Woodlake
Tuesday, just after noon, a fast moving grass fire caused some anxious
moments when it spread dangerously close to three homes on La Cienega
Drive in the Alta Acres area of Three Rivers. A heavy equipment operator
employed by a well-drilling company ignited the blaze that consumed
A quick response and several aircraft making drops really helped us
knock down what could have been a tragic fire, said Felix Rodriguez,
Tulare County battalion chief who acted as the incident commander. The
clearance around the nearby homes certainly was a big help.
In addition to Tulare County and CDF firefighters, two National
Park Service engines also responded from Ash Mountain. The NPS helicopter
based at Ash Mountain assisted in an air attack of the fire with three
tankers from Fresno, Porterville, and Paso Robles.
While the Three Rivers fire was being mopped up, another blaze, which
is suspected to be the work of an arsonist, broke out in an orchard
adjacent to Antelope Mountain the old W hill north of the Castle
Rock subdivision in Woodlake. No structures were lost, but 8 00 acres
of grassland were charred.
Chief Rodriguez, who is stationed in the Badger-Woodlake-Ivanhoe
area, said he is impressed by the job Three Rivers residents have done
this season to provide defensible space.
Be sure to do mowing
and clearance work in the morning hours when humidity and moisture levels
are higher, reminded Rodriguez.
blessed by Native Americans,
BY JOHN ELLIOTT
Last Monday’s timing
of dedicating Lake Kaweah’s newly enlarged basin and one-third
more storage capacity in an unusually dry year didn’t diminish
the jubilant mood of the crowd gathered at Lemon Hill. The enlarged
spillway, off in the distance and the centerpiece of the day’s
celebration, was resplendent with its huge American flag and a fire
truck pumping a giant spray of water from its nozzle in salute.
Each of the dozen speakers who addressed the gathering
knew firsthand how difficult it had been to complete a project of this
scope and magnitude.
“The idea for
enlargement was being discussed as soon as the original Terminus Dam
was completed in the 1960s,” said Jim Costa, a retired state senator
and longtime advocate of Valley water projects. “By the 1980s,
those discussions really became serious.”
Two decades later and after an expenditure of $58 million,
what seemed so recently as so much pie in the sky, an enlarged Lake
Kaweah is now reality.
“When was the
last time you saw this much water in the basin?” asked county
Supervisor Bill Sanders. “Actually, for a short time in 1997,
the old spillway was sandbagged and the elevation was raised five feet
to just about where it is today.”
That current level, still sixteen feet shy of the new capacity,
was enough to submerge three-fourths of the Horse Creek campsites and
knock the “number two” boat ramp out of commission. Even
as the ceremony was taking place, the lake’s water level had begun
its steady retreat as the outflow is now consistently exceeding the
But it’s the future implications of the project that
really have water officials and downstream residents beaming. Foremost
is that Valley residents will now be protected from floods like those
that devastated the area in the 1950s and 1960s. And just the thought
of all that extra water in a normal year has agricultural and recreational
users feeling another kind of security.
Gloria Morales, a board member from the state Bureau of
Reclamation, said she was just a Valley schoolgirl when she first heard
about the Lake Kaweah enlargement project. Now she is a grandmother,
she said, and the project is complete.
“The bureau contributed
$20 million of the $58 million that was needed to complete the enlargement,”
Morales said. “But my hat is off to the local people who had the
tenacity to make it happen.”
Clarence Atwell, chief of the Tachi Yokut tribe, offered a Native
American blessing at the ceremony. He asked the Great Father for permission
and guidance to use the basin, which is a resting place and former home
of many native peoples, as well as asked for "safe passage"
for the recently-deceased Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th president
of the United States, to join the Great Father in Heaven.
In their own words:
Historic quotes from the June 7 Lake Kaweah Enlargement Project dedication
Costa, state senator
The discussions of this
enlargement began to get really serious in the 1980s. Getting
this project [done] was like trying to nail Jell-o to a tree.
I want to especially
thank Three Rivers for their patience during the construction.
These 900,000-pound fuse-gates will be a tourist attraction to
engineers from all over the world.
In my 14 years in Congress,
this is one of the few federal projects that was brought to completion...
Water projects are bipartisan in the Valley.
We thank you all for
seeing this project to completion.
Bob Link, mayor,
In 1955, seeing Christmas
trees and presents floating down the streets of Visalia made an
indelible impression on me. Thank you, Jack Chrisman, for your
vision in getting this project rolling.
As an Exeter High School
student, I watched this dam and highway being built. We can be
grateful for the vision of leaders like [former state senator]
Ken Maddy, who had the foresight of the importance of this water
for our Valley.
It was the superhuman
effort of Bruce George [KDWCD manager] that kept this project
on track. Our mantra was: Keep the project on time, on schedule,
and on budget!
I hope we never lose
sight of the fact that the primary function of this structure
is to protect people and property from damaging floods that occasionally
sweep down from these hills. For that reason, it is money well
Can you ever imagine
Kings County and Tulare County agreeing on something? This project
is one thing we could all agree on.
Today, we can truly
say we're from the government and we're here to help you. This
is one of the best things we have ever been involved in.
On Monday, June 7, Janet King, officer-in-charge
of the Three Rivers Post Office, announced that Lori Ontiveros, the
current postmaster at Ducor, was appointed to fill the vacant top job
at Three Rivers. King, a Three Rivers resident who was also a candidate
for the position, will return to her postmaster position at the Lemon
Cove Post Office.
Ontiveros, who lives in Lindsay, is officially replacing
Carole Howard, who several months ago was appointed as postmaster of
Orange Cove. The new postmaster will begin her new job on Saturday,
The Three Rivers Post Office, established in 1879, serves
more than 1,500 postal box holders and does a large per capita mailing
business relative to postal stations similar in size.
BY SARAH ELLIOTT
This story is part of
the Three Rivers School graduation feature that appears in the June
11 print edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth and has photos
of this year's eighth-grade graduates and the honors they received at
the commencement ceremony held Thursday, June 3.
For at least 40 years —
and actually a lot longer but nobody seems to be able to pin down a
date — local eighth-graders have been going to San Francisco as
a culmination of their Three Rivers School years. That means for 40
years and beyond, Three Rivers residents have been supporting the students
in their fundraising endeavors — from car washes, bake sales,
and snow-cones to Jazzaffair food service and Community Calendars.
That’s hundreds of thousands of dollars that Three
Rivers has cumulatively paid. So is it worth it?
Well, the trip has my stamp of approval. The kids definitely get what
you pay for and more.
Each year, there are several of the young teens who have
never been to San Francisco. Also, many have never been fully responsible
for themselves in a big-city environment, had to be their own time manager,
ridden public transportation, been in a professional sports stadium,
seen live theatre, and most have never eaten in a restaurant on their
own, from being seated to paying the tab and tip. All this and many
more firsts are experienced on this trip and the kids return home a
little wiser, a little more travel savvy, and very tired.
So travel along with the Class of 2004 on this year’s
trip and see for yourself. And with a few weeks of perspective behind
me, I can also offer future chaperones a few survival tips.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 26
8:30 A.M.— It was 25 excited students who embarked
on this long-awaited, hard-earned, three-day adventure. The bus pulled
alongside the classroom on Eggers Drive and the kids, 12 chaperones,
and teacher-turned-tour-guide Gail Matuskey loaded their luggage and
Twelve chaperones (5 couples and 2 moms), 25 kids. Pretty
good odds, huh? It should be a breeze to keep these soon-to-be high
schoolers from cursing, littering, violating curfew, smoking in the
boys room, or getting lost.
That’s right — the first commandment for chaperones
is: Thou shalt not lose thy kids. This rule is intended to spare the
school district from irate parents who, after the trip, ask unreasonable
questions like, “Where is my child?”
9 A.M.— The luxurious, colorful
Classic Charter bus hit the highway with Robert behind the wheel. The
driver is someone everyone gets to know well over the course of the
11:30 A.M.— A lunch break at the
McDonald’s in Los Banos is the first stop. The chaperones distributed
$5 from the trip fund to each of their small group of students and themselves.
Back on the bus, the DVDs School of Rock and You Got Served were all
viewed by the time we reached the city. The commandment “Censor
thy videos” was not necessary on this trip, but Gail Matuskey,
who has a decade of trips under her belt, knows the implications of
3 P.M.— The bus dropped our group
in front of Hostelling International’s downtown location in what
used to be the Hotel Virginia on Mason Street at O’Farrell, a
block off Union Square. The hostel is nestled amidst restaurants, theatres,
art galleries, and the city’s famous shopping district, and the
atmosphere is electric and the excitement contagious.
It was 38 of us that checked into the hostel and flocked
to the third floor, scattering in various directions to our assigned
rooms. Two sets of bunk beds adorned our corner room that had two windows
that looked across alleys to other buildings.
We had a sink, radiator-type heater, lockers in the closet
and, the girls were thrilled to see, an electrical outlet, which is
a luxury here and was used solely for hair appliances.
A shared bathroom separated our accommodations from the
next room, which also had four females from our party. Next commandment:
Take thy showers at night, which none of us did, so early doesn’t
even describe when the cleansing rituals began.
We settled in, and had about 30 minutes to grab what we needed for an
afternoon in the city and a night at a Giants baseball game.
After a few searches and retrievals of stragglers, we were
all assembled in the hostel’s lobby. Then we followed tour guide
Matuskey like ducklings to the heart of Union Square to catch a cable
car (invented in 1873; designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964
it stated on the ticket).
We quickly filled up the car and each paid our $3 for the
privilege of the ride and incredible views on the way to San Francisco’s
waterfront. At Pier 39, an outdoor mall that extends into San Francisco
Bay, everyone received $10 and then let loose on the pier to shop or
play as they wished.
6:15 P.M.— The bus met us at the
entrance to Pier 39 and took us to SBC Park, where the Giants would
be playing the Arizona Diamondbacks. Everyone received $20 and a ticket
to the game.
Another commandment is: It’s okay to enter the stadium
after the game has commenced and here’s why. As we climbed to
the second deck and were crossing the “Old Navy Splash Landing”
on the way to our seats, Barry Bonds hit a foul ball directly over our
heads and we all watched it splash into McCovey Cove.
Later in the evening, from our left-field seats, which
had a great view of Barry Bonds when in his left-field position, we
also witnessed a Bonds homerun and watched the scoreboard as the TRUS
Class of 2004 appeared in lights on the list of those being welcomed
to the stadium.
The Diamondbacks were up by one run as the clock ticked
9:15, the time we had to leave to meet our bus. Barry Bonds was due
up, so our curfew was extended.
He was walked, but the next player batted two runs in, and we reluctantly
pried ourselves away from the game knowing that the Giants had won.
10 P.M.— We were back in our rooms
with lights out at 11 p.m. Yeah, right.
THURSDAY, MAY 27
5 A.M.— The sounds of the city were amazing to this country
mom who usually has little tolerance to any peep except river and frogs.
But it was in awe that I listened while lying in my top bunk that night
— people shouting, screeching tires, skidding tires, sirens, diesel
trucks, motorcycles, squeaky brakes, horns, trash cans, car alarms,
7 A.M.— Thank goodness there’s
a Starbuck’s on every corner. I got my coffee early, then returned
and distributed my group’s $5 in breakfast money. Our group toured
the neighborhood looking at bakeries, a ’50s diner, fast food
and other restaurants and finally decided on eating at an Italian street
9:15 A.M.— We were back on the cable
cars and headed to Chinatown. We first assembled at the historic St.
Mary’s Church, where the students were told they could explore
either side of Grant Street between California and Jackson streets.
Everyone was provided with $10 for lunch and shopping and again went
their separate ways to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of
this unique San Francisco neighborhood.
12:15 P.M.— We reassembled at St.
Mary’s Church. Commandment: Never doubt that kids have a watch
and know how to use it. It is nothing short of amazing that 25 of them
always arrived on time from points afar.
We walked a few blocks to meet our bus, since it is too large to negotiate
the streets of Chinatown. We were off to spend the afternoon at the
To be continued...